Emergency department staffers call it “wall time” — the long delay in care when patients brought in by ambulance wait on a gurney along one of the walls.
Gov. Jerry Brown (D) this week signed legislation (AB 1223) addressing that problem.
“The EMS [emergency medical services] industry has suffered for years from an inability to offload patients,” said John Surface, vice president of operations for Hall Ambulance, based in Bakersfield.
“It takes two or three or four hours to offload patients sometimes,” Surface said. “They just sit there waiting and waiting.”
AB 1223, by Assembly member Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach), calls for uniform collection of data about those delays.
“When EMS crews are delayed at hospitals they cannot respond to other emergency calls,” O’Donnell said in a written statement.
“This forces EMS providers to pull crews from other areas, reducing coverage, and causing a public safety risk,” he said. “This bill creates a common tool set to be used across the state to help identify the causes of this problem.”
Surface said discussions of this issue among stakeholders have been going on for a long time, “but all of the efforts to change it haven’t borne any fruit,” he said. “Everyone defines offload delays differently.”
Data collection is the starting point, he said, and once the numbers become part of the official record, a solution can be devised.
“Will this bill change it all? Absolutely not,” Surface said. “But whenever we talk about changing this, it’s always, ‘Show me the data, show me the data.’ After the data, you can develop a scheme for changing this.”
The law goes into effect Jan. 1, 2016.